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Us 10, Cecil Williams 5, Jerusalem 4, Heaven 4, Stowe 3, Williams 3, New Testament 2, Jonestown 2, Annette 1, Mrs. So-and-so 1, Dr. John Simmons 1, Bible 1, Man 1, Verb 1, Ramtha 1, The Jesus 1, Cecil 1, Egypt 1, Baptist 1, Western 1,
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    March 21, 2013
    7:00 - 7:30pm PDT  

welcome to another session of beliefs and believers. i'm dr. john simmons, and as always, we have a scintillating session in plan for you today. we're about midway through the course and we're in one of those transition periods in beliefs and believers. we're moving out of doctrine - well, moving into doctrine, but out of myth and ritual. and we never want to think that we're going to forget the other dimension, so let's keep those in mind - the experiential dimension, the mythic dimension, and the ritual dimension. of course, i'm sort of like kid in the candy store with
those particular dimensions, but when we get to doctrine and ethics, i want to talk about those together today if we could, and start right out with the graphics, because when we're thinking about doctrine and ethics, belief and behavior, we're really at the very, very heart of the course. and if you can take a peak at this first graphic, this is it, and in some ways, it makes me a little sad because my heart is in the beauty of the experience and listening to the myths and the rituals we've seen so far in class. but the practical reason for this course, we have hit on it. all of us on our own can enjoy studying religious experience, we can enjoy myth, we can enjoy watching rituals of all sorts. but why a student should take this class, here we are because this is the practical impact, and we want to focus on that today, but also, as always, not pretending we're going to know everything about christianity at the end of the course, but to look at how christianity can help us understand, in particular,
the relationship between doctrine and ethics. now i want to talk in general about the relationship of the six dimensions as we move through the graphics here, and we might use it as kind of a review period. religious experience, of course, we talked about the triangle that generates myth, and in that term, rituals come in and they bring the believer back into that state of consciousness. and i talk about these as a kind of inward turning impact of religion - this is where religion affects experience, it affects the community, and so it's a very - as we've seen - powerful and beautiful part of religion. doctrine is sort of the focal point. i don't want to say it's the center of the course, but it's a very powerful dimension because here's where we move to more of an outward turning force in terms of our six dimensions. religious doctrines, of course - belief and behavior - doctrines impact what people believe, so they behave, or back to our b plus b equals b
equation here. so the effect of religious belief on behavior comes right back to the social dimension, and that's that outward turning force that we want to look at today. now moving on to the next graphic here - and jump in with any questions - and you'll see we're moving on to this look at the power of religion and its impact on society. but religious behavior impacts on the social dimension, and that's one of the keys we want to look at. and we've got some very powerful material today on the jonestown situation, you may have remembered - gosh, is it almost 20 years ago? yeah, i guess it is. boy, it's been a long time. but one of the most dramatic - love it or leave it, and i can't imagine anyone that loves it - but it's an astounding story of the jonestown suicide massacre. i wanted to - not just to be sensational - but to bring that up and show what a powerful effect religion does have on human behavior. and we've already wrestled
with this truth question. of course religion is about truth, especially to believers, and there's truth in the ritual dimension and in the mythic dimension, in the experiential dimension. but we need to also look at the power of religion and its impact on human behavior, which it certainly is. another major determinant - religion's a major determinant in human behavior - but another reason why we should focus on religion and take a course like this and be more well versed in understanding religion is because it's also a major determinant of cultural behavior in other words, how people behave within their culture - and we've seen that quite a bit in this course. that's just a short one of the graphics. and we want to begin, as we're moving into this middle, towards the latter part of the semester, to think about the relationship of these dimensions. at the start of the course, we said that we're somewhat arbitrarily cutting up the pie
so that we have a way to approach this material. but we want to begin to see how they all interact, so that triangle of experience and myth and ritual - answering boundary questions, defining identity, guiding people in their community - now we can begin to see - and we'll look at this in the next class - but i'd like to think of doctrine as almost like an aperture - it focuses in on the symbolism of the myth, the imaginativeness of the ritual. doctrine brings that in, makes sense of it for a community, and out of that begins to - once again, the heart of the course - guide religious behavior, which in turn impacts on society. so we can begin to see how the whole picture falls together. i mean, there's a number of different ways one might approach the study of religion, but here's a way to think about how, as we move into the social dimension, whether annette or jamie or janet may or may not believe
or have anything to do with a particular religion, how believers may, when we're least expecting it, come around and impact on your life in one way or another. and a wise person is someone who's aware of that sort of thing. it's not that we're now entering into a study of the negative side of religion - not in any way, shape or form at all. but we want to - since most of aren't monks and not living in monasteries; we're out in culture. and so often, as we mentioned in this class, there's this attitude, particularly in american society, where, well, religion is somebody's private business; we'll just keep it over here as we go about our other cultural business, the important things like politics and economics and shopping and commerce and what have you, and religion, no, we can put that over here. but that's a fairly dangerous way to approach one of the most powerful cultural determinants and social determinants in terms of human behavior. so we just want to be aware of that and look at that and see
it as another major function, and as we move through doctrine and ethics in particular, we'll see that, looking at the impact on the social dimension. now before our first wonderful roll-in, we're going to go back and revisit cecil williams to get off on a cheerier note here. but i just want to make the case, we're doing some things a little bit different in this version of beliefs and believers. i've, in my classes, brought up doctrine and ethics together - we will do formal notes on doctrine and then some formal notes on ethics as we move through the classes. but i've found for students, it's good to think about those two dimensions, as we already saw in the graphic, together - as doctrine as belief, and ethics as behavior. granted, simplistic, but a clear way to begin to get a handle on those two important dimensions, just the way myth and ritual had to be seen at first together, so we want to see doctrine and ethics together, moving on to their impact on the social dimension. so we are about
christianity today, and so i wanted to start off with a wonderful look at reverend cecil williams again. remember him from glide memorial methodist church? it may have been way back in the first or second class. we just said - what was his line? "watch out for religion that can be dangerous," or something along those lines? he had a wonderful idea about how religious experience is really at the core of religion. well, here we hear a christian minister, a methodist minister, speaking in a way that says just what - well, once again what i'd liked him to say; i didn't tell him to say it, i'm just sitting there and we're rolling the cameras. but if you listen to this, he doesn't use terms like the doctrinal dimension and the ethical dimension and the social dimension, obviously. but i simply asked this gentleman a question after his three incredible services that particular sunday. i said, "well, you know, what is christianity to you?" and as we go through this roll-in, listen how he simply - at least to my thinking,
and correct me if i'm wrong here; i may be seeing too much of my own pathway into the material here - but i think what he's saying is that the heart of christian teaching - in other words, the doctrine - the belief is predicated on the behavior, and how that behavior impacts on the social dimension. in other words, his focus, as a christian, is that your christianness - your christianing, using it as a verb - your christianing when your ethical practices raise up people, stamp out injustice, help people who have less, bring everyone into the fold - it's very inclusive, it's very loving, it's lifting up the hurting, it's lifting up the poor - that, for him, is the essence of christianity. so we see christian doctrine leading to an ethical stance - and we'll talk about ethics a bit later when we get to our formal classroom definitions - as proper patterns of actions.
again, a very simply way to think about ethics, but how do we properly conduct ourselves in an optimal way that creates the good, the enduring, the beautiful life. how does all that then impact? well, for reverend cecil williams, it's how it impacts finally on the social dimension. now i wanted to bring him in here to start us off because in our next class, we'll visit an arch - fundamentalist independent baptist preacher - and we've met him before too, reverend stowe. he was the fellow - or pastor stowe - who took issue with jz knight channeling ramtha, and felt that she was channeling demons or something like that; so we've met the gentleman before, but a person of great integrity, as i mentioned. but for him, where does christian doctrine lead? what kind of ethical stance should one take, and what should be the impact on the social dimension? well, very typical of fundamentalist christians,
heaven is the focus. for reverend cecil williams, the most important thing a christian can do is to help people on earth, to make things better here - dare i say, build the kingdom of heaven on earth. for pastor stowe, the most important thing - driven by christian doctrine - ethically that a person can do to improve the social dimension is to get people saved, get them committed to jesus, so they get to heaven. so two very deep christians, christians who take their christianity very seriously, who take leading their flock seriously, but very kind of different focus on ethical dimension and social dimension. so it's, again, that wonderful thing, that you have to look at individuals when we go through this. so it's a delightful interview - cracks me up every time i hear it. but let's go back and listen to reverend cecil williams from glide memorial church in san francisco.
>> i have themes of liberation in what i do. first of all, i need liberating - i need deliverance - and so therefore, i'm constantly being a part of an act of deliverance. i have to change; i can't just think i got it and then settle in, and that's it. i have to say to myself, and to others, "look, i need to really do something with my life." and i can't just go every day not looking at myself. and also that has to do with my brothers and sisters. i have to look at how i am relating to them, how i live my life with them, and it has to be open, and it has to be with joy and gratitude. and life is more than just being serious all the time; it's also being happy and joyous,
and it means that what we must do with each other is try to find those things that will not diminish us with each other, but will expand our lives with each other. and so that's the crux of what i'm about, is to try to make sure that everybody - everybody has a table to come to, and a home to go to. this is the home. this is our home, and this home is for everybody. i just talked to, right before i came up here, three young men who went to prison. i didn't even know that they were in prison - they've been in prison about two years now - until recently, so very interesting. they came by my office just a short time ago to say that they were out, and the first thing i did was the wrong - i made the wrong statement. i said, "i see you're out." they said, "yeah."
i said, "well, you know, i'm so glad you're out. now i want you to come home." and i could see that they were not ready to come home here. and so i said, "no, no, no. i'm sorry, i made a mistake. come home whenever you get ready. we'll be waiting for you. and when you come, we will have a feast." >> we're certainly hearing that at the heart of the christian message is the need to help your fellow human beings. how do you promote that here at glide? >> jesus was a pretty strange person. i have a feeling that one reason people sought jesus was that he was so utterly different than anybody who'd come along in his day and time. they kept saying to jesus, "who are you, and why did you come? what are you? well, what are you doing around here?
hey, jesus, what are you... aren't you ... are you the messiah, are you... just tell us, who are you?" and jesus seemed to have kept skirting the issue, as if to say, "well, you find out." "it's up to you to find out. do i have to... i've already told you. go tell john what you've seen and what you've heard. that ought to convince your son, right?" they want jesus to just constantly pound something in their heads - like they couldn't get it; like we can't get it. we're always trying to get it; we never get it, even though it's right before us. well, anyway, it seems to me that being a christian is to live life fully with the spirit-to be "spirit you - all"... spiritual. to be spiritual, or "spirit you-all" or "all of you" simply means that, in a real sense,
we have a commitment. we have a vision of what can happen if in fact we open up to new possibilities. so the gospel has always opened up new possibilities for us, and we keep missing it and we keep saying, "well, where...where is it? where is it?" it's like how christians are always afraid of what they're going to lose. and i think you've got to lose something to gain something. and so i guess what i'm really just finally saying is that this is the time for the church to now step ahead. this is the time for the church to stand up and say, "look, we're not going to be what we've been. we have dogged you" - all that is with the kids, we say, oh, "they dog you. you're just like an old dog." well, the church is maybe just sometimes like an old dog - it just goes and sits on the porch and just looks out and just waits for something
to happen. if something happens, the old dog might raise his head and kind of look out there and say, "oh, so something's going on," and maybe give half of a bark and go back to sleep. [laughing] boy, i didn't know i could get in all of that. but anyway - boy, i got to use that! so you got it first! ah, man, the church, it's my home, and what happened this sunday and tomorrow, while all of the united methodists are here, and while the academy people are here, is someway, somehow, there will be a spark ignited. i used this in my sermon sunday before last - or last sunday, that ashes - if you really want to find the spark in the ashes, what you've got to do is go over
and fan the ashes, and the spark begins to ignite, and come to life again. and what we've got to do in the life of the church is some of us have got to make a stand - be courageous enough to risk everything, so the church can become the church. >> now, correct me if i'm wrong, i'm reading into what he's saying something along the lines of that relationship between doctrine and ethics and social dimension, that you recognize that you are applying christian doctrine on how you relate to your fellow human beings in the world. and i also get the sense with him, which is very real, that religious doctrine sometimes can be - as he said - it's like ashes that can fall on the pure, bubbly fire of a very effervescent and experiential religion like christianity. too much doctrine kind of crushes out that fire, and you need to fan it
and move it away. but this thing abouthe dog cracks me up that the worls walking by and that you just can envision it, a dog laying on the porch, wagging its tail, "oh, yeah," a little bark and all that. it cracks me up. yeah? >> i see that you mentioned my children, the ones who are missionaries now, and they're born-again christian they're baptists. but a couple moved in as part of their congregation, and they had four children, and here were six people. at the time, my daughter and her husband had no children. once he realized the man needed a job, he gave him his job. he took him downtown, introduced him, and said, "he needs the job more than i. train him." but you see, this is a direct application of what he believed, and it proved to him, more than anyone else - because he never had any trouble getting a job - but by giving up what was his security to someone else,
that's a major sacrifice. but it wasn't for him he didn't see it that way at all. >> yeah? >> actually, what he did was, he was fearless to lose something, as reverend cecil was - in order to gain something more profound. >> yes. it was simply a case of "god will provide." >> and i'm so moved by that. in looking at religion - not just christianity, but in general - when you look at life from a fear perspective - and most of us just do; i mean, we don't want to - but if you're always worried about what you're going to lose, then it takes the luster, the fire out of life. and just - your comment, that's what it is - you're not afraid to give up something for someone else. and his other comment, reverend williams, he says something about you've got to be ready to lose in order to gain, and what an interesting way to think in religion. but thinking about christianity and most folks in here have expressed that they're connected to one form of christianity or another - it's so very - it fits with classic
christian doctrine, if you think about the premier image being christ's self-emptying on the cross - to not even be able to lose one's life - and that's radical! that's radical. but you see how that doctrine comes out of experience, but we're always going to see people like reverend williams and like everyone in the class that has a particular religious perspective, day by day, we're called upon to focus that doctrine - through the arcature of the ethical dimension and the way of the world. other comments? oh, sure. >> people live in a state of expectation always, but i think sometime you have to take part in what you expect. >> yes! >> instead of, like the dog, just lie and wait for something to happen. >> yeah. my grandma had an old saying that you can pray to god for this, that, and another thing, but you have to take the human steps; you have to participate in it. and i think that's -
this is where we focus. now my inner journey's out because in the past - we've also looked at monasticism; we've had some interesting discussions in the past about whether one removes oneself from the world and puts those roots down into the ground - was it bishop thomas, the coptic bishop in egypt, talked about putting the roots down whether one does that. and he's of course christian - it's not that we haven't touched on christians in this class. i mean, how does that compare, then, to reverend williams. and if i could have brought you more of a feel for that church - i mean, it's teeming - it's right on that part of town they call the tenderloin. the whole back of the church, when we were trying to move in all our equipment is just filled with the homeless, because they're coming for meals, they're coming for training. everything about that church is helping your fellow human being, and everything about that church is inviting everyone to the party. you sit in the church service, which i did at the 11:00 service,
and it is so diverse, there's so many different kinds of people there. and we want to keep that in mind when we move to the next class and meet the fundamentalist christians because there are clearly defined walls on who belongs and who does not belong in that group. and i don't have an answer for that, but i mean, you're such good teachers in this class - let's keep that in mind as how we could get such different doctrinal interpretations about the meaning of jesus's life and jesus's work and they could have such very different cultural and social manifestations as institutions. susanna, i thought you h a - >> i'm moved by the act of virginia's son too. and i'm thinking, also, what the reverend had to say is that a lot of christians are busy looking for the words - they're bible-happy; they find it in the bible,
you can find a quote for almost anything. and like you say, that gives space to a lot of diversity and interpretation, because you can find a quote to support most points of view or a lot of them. but i think also, if we thought about it maybe a little bit like christ did, that it wasn't - he said a lot of things; probably this much of it is written down. but he was the lesson. and like the reverend said, he was different - yeah, he was - because he walked the walk; he didn't just talk the talk. and he wasn't exclusive, and it's probably the biggest - where do christians come frfrom who put up walls to other christians and other people? i'm interested in some, and i don't think there will be answers to the questions, but statements about it, because that is not what i would call christ-like. he was always in trouble for admitting the one that nobody else wanted - >> exactly!
>> - like the samaritan. he used these people for examples all the time of who was really your brother, who was really close to you, how you really should be, could be, would be. >> like the reverend said, a strange man, but one could be, if you were in sunday school in certain churches and you said, "mrs. so-and-so, i think jesus is a strange man," it would be [makes swooshing sound]. i mean, you don't say that sort of thing in certain contexts, in certain areas, that jesus is a strange man. i'm thinking about jesus, and the triumphalist jesus. and i run into that, because it's been my karma to teach new testament and old testament every semester down at western. never had a class in it, and it's forced me to go back into the material in greater depth. and what was remarkable for me along these lines is the diversity of opinions of jesus in the class. also, i grew up in a particularly -
in a "made in america" religion with a particularly unusual interpretation of the life and teaching of jesus, that i walked around thinking, well, this is the way it was. but once i was forced - or maybe that's not the right word - but once the administrators at wiu compelled me to teach old testament and new testament, it's been an extraordinary experience, because in the context, which of course is religious studies, what i promised the students in that class is that if they sign up in august and go clear through till may, they will at least know the cultural context, the issues, the theme of the time of each of the books of the bible. and if you did that, you would know more than 99 percent of the people who wander around - as you say, susanna - thinking they've got the word , because you first have to have that cultural context, i find out. but then the question of - like you said, the jesus -
when i read it, i see someone who would be in trouble, for inviting people who don't belong to the table. go ahead, we'll get you in here. >> when i was quite young, my best friend a baptist, and i was raised a catholic. in all the teachings in the classes that i attended a parochial school, it was very seldom they mentioned the old testament - i knew nothing about the old testament. and then when i got a little older and was taking a class at a public school, i met this young lady who was my friend, very good friend, and she was baptist, and it was like, boom, we're hitting into each other. she's christian protestant and i'm catholic and she's telling me things from the old testament - i was like, "wait! hey! where did you get all this?" and she's saying, "oh, all you read is the new testament? what's the matter with you?" and there was such a difference
in our families' way of thinking that her mother did not want me to associate with her - she was afraid that i would pollute her with something or other. but we maintained our friendship all through high school, but it was interesting to find that out after you've gone to parochial school, that there's a whole another world to christianity. >> and it spins, to some extent, on doctrinal interpretation. i want to take us through a little adventure in the next class on the book of revelation and doctrinal interpretation. but actually, your good comment brings us up to a perfect intro into the next roll-in. where do the stories of jesus come from? how did this original material happen? it's a very short roll-in. we happened to be - it was that day, marching through the holy land, and we were in jerusalem, and we stopped at a beautiful little chapel where, according to "the myth,"
jesus cried for jerusalem. and i was sitting out there in the sun, and it suddenly struck me, well, where do all these stories come from that today we know about? well, through sacred text - through the new testament. you mentioned the focus on the new testament, but where does the new testament come from and where do those stories come from? so if we could, just a short roll-in to illustrate how jesus's life and teaching inevitably developed into what we now call the new testament. >> another piece in great mythic drama involving jesus in jerusalem. this is the spot where jesus reputedly cried for jerusalem, and it gives us an opportunity to think about that amazing connection between the original charismatic leader, the sacred text, and the birth of a new religious movement. we can imagine, after jesus's whirlwind ministry he dies on the cross, goes to heaven, according to the faith community but for 20 years,